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It was a few weeks ago that I was leisurely paging through the latest edition of Rachael Ray Magazine looking for some new recipes. Tucked near the back of the magazine was an article on the best hot dog in America. The results were determined via a March Madness style bracket with restaurants from all over the country up for the running. A few were in Chicago. And, much to my surprise, when I turned the page, a Chicago restaurant won.

It was then that I realized I wasn’t a true Chicagoan, despite what I may present to others. I had never had a Chicago style hot dog. I knew nothing about the deliciousness of sport peppers, the necessity of celery salt, or the fresh puffiness of a poppy-seed bun. I was a sham. A disgrace to Chicago. And thus, I decided to embark on a journey to find my own best Chicago style dog.

The reasons I have never had a Chicago style dog are many. First, I did not start eating tomatoes until about a year ago. I was previously not a big fan, preferring gasp ketchup for any sort of tomato flavor. Second, what the fuck is relish and why is it so green? Third, and probably more importantly, I have had a severe aversion to hot dogs probably since I reached double digits in age. As a kid, I ate  my fair share of hot dogs doused in ketchup accompanied by cheese fries. But at a certain point, okay probably later than 10, I was disgusted by hot dogs. So I vowed never to eat them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not encased meats I’m against. As a good German gal, I eat beyond my fair share of bratwurst. But perhaps I became an encased meats elitist, deciding that hot dogs are a pedestrian excuse for handheld deliciousness.

The spot Rachael Ray deemed the best was Gene & Jude’s. Apparently they put fries on the dog. That didn’t seem very Chicago to me, nor very appetizing to me. The other Chicago spot that came near to victory was Superdawg. I immediately pictured this spot in my head, drawing back to childhood memories of seeing boy and girl dressed hotdogs atop a little drive-in joint. Boy and girl dressed hotdogs in love. With Valentine’s Day approaching, this seemed the perfect spot to go.

And as it turned out I was beyond lucky to have decided on this spot as it is still a working drive-in. Meaning, I could drive up, park, order through an antiquated machine and then a lady will come out with my order and place the tray on my window. Awesome, to say the least. All that was missing was a crew of bad boys with cigarettes rolled up the sleeve of their Hanes white tees. As a lover of antiques and the olden days, this was definitely the spot for me.

But enough about the setting, what about the dog? I ordered the Superdawg which is a classic Chicago style dog (all beef dog, yellow mustard, bright green relish, celery salt, onions, pickle spear, sport peppers, tomato wedge) tucked into a retro looking box with some of the most delicious crinkle cut fries I have ever eaten. The first bite? I was beyond nervous. What do hot dogs even taste like? Meat? Beef? Steak? I had no recollection but was pleasantly surprised when I tasted a bit of beef accented with peppery, mustardy undertones. And the bun! So fresh it could barely hold the dog and its dressings. The first bite quickly turned into the next couple until I, sadly, realized I was done. Ketchup who? Bratwurst what?

I wanted to push the button and order another. I wanted the waitress to skate out on her nonexistent skates and say “Congratulations!” or “You are soooooo Chicago!” Instead, I flipped the switch on the ordering machine for the waitress to retrieve my tray. As I watched her trudge through Chicago snow covered in a windbreaker and boots, (not a poodle skirt or neck scarf) I thought about baseball. I thought about warm summer days at Wrigley with my dad. I was no longer concerned with being a real Chicagoan.

The waitress, now at my window, asked me how everything was. A standard question. To which I replied, “everything is great.” A not so standard present tense reply. I rolled up my window and drove off into the evening, extremely satisfied with my first Chicago hot dog.  

Things I Live For: See above

Quote of the Day: “And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.” –Mr. Terence Mann, Field of Dreams

Thoughts?
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Comments

  1. Heather on 2011.02.24

    oh shanky! yes!! you gotta love the celery salt!

  2. Curtis on 2011.03.04

    Ketchup who? Bratwurst what? Funniness and intrigue! Does it count though if I have had a “Chicago Dog” w/o the tomato as I do not care for them..?

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